Pecan Jam: A San Saba Celebration of Texas Wine and Pecan-Filled Foods
When Mike McHenry first called me and asked if I would attend the inaugural Pecan Jam Texas Wine and Pecan Festival in San Saba, Texas it was over a year ago. In fact, it was so long ago that I thought that he was asking about a festival in October 2010, but it was in October 2011. This was was just Mike’s thorough way of doing thing with lots of advance planning….way in advance!
My wife and I drove up from our Hill Country cottage near Fredericksburg traveling past a lot of very dry looking country. However, when we showed up last Friday evening for the Pecan Jam opening reception and dinner at San Saba’s Mill Pond Park it was all quite green around their spring-feed, mini-river walk. But, the water was not the only thing that was flowing. The wines of Alamosa Wine Cellars (from neighboring Bend, TX) were flowing, too. And, the pecans figuratively flowing, as well. Texas pecans were in every morsel of the hand-passed hors d’oeuvres and in every course of the grand gourmet meal.
The pre-dinner fare consisted of mushroom caps stuffed with herbs, cheese and toasted pecans; fresh cherry tomatoes with basil-pecan pesto on bruschetta; crostini with spicy pecan cheese spread. The accompanying wines were from Alamosa Wine Cellars: Cherokee Rosé (dry), Amigo White (semi-sweet and aromatic white blend) and Texacaia (a Mediterranean red blend made with Sangiovese, Syrah and Tempranillo).
To start the dinner festivities, Mike invited me to give a short prayer of thanksgiving. This was very appropriate as most of the grape and percan growers were thankful that the summer of 2011 with its searing heat was over; the drought, well that’s another story altogether. I borrowed a few lines from Jet Wilmeth’s winegrower’s prayer that he gave at my dinner with Lubbock-area grape growers the night of the severe freeze in March 2009 and that I quote in the closing of my soon to be released book, The Wineslinger Chronicles. When I came to the part where I asked our Lord for a blessing of a little rain, I got a chorus of amens from the dinner attendees.
Steven Krueger,a fifth generation Texas and Sommelier at Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio, presented the wines. First, the Alamosa Estate Viognier 2010 (ripe and delicious) was paired with a butternut squash soup with caramelized pecans. They were followed by the Alamosa 2007 (Cherokee Creek Vineyards) Palette, a blend of reds that included Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault with a touch of Viognier paired with a roast pork loin with Texas Port wine and pecan reduction. The evening finished with the Alamosa 2006 Late Harvest Texas Port, that included only the ripest of grapes, paired with a (very) decadent chocolate ganache cake with toasted pecans. All in all, it was a night of fun and fiber.
As the evening progressed, Alamosa Wine Cellars 0wner and winemaker, Jim Johnson, addressed the gathering and said that his featured red wine, Palette, was a unique blend for Texas but reminiscent of the wines from the south of France. The grapes were planted in the proportions to achieve a “field blended” wine. That is, the grapes in the field were grown and harvested with the specific intention to be blended into this wine. This technique of “winegrowing” is much more common in Europe than in found in the United States.
This was a prodigious and satisfying start to the San Saba festival weekend. As I walked back to my car, I was captivated by the bright Texas stars suspended on the black velvet canvas of the heavens above. I stopped for a moment and thought, surely these must be my lucky stars that allowed me to partake in such a night of Texas food and wine extravagance. The only one that saw my smile was a small gray fox that scampered across my path in the parking lot.